I don’t feel like you should call for people to do things to benefit this planet unless you’re doing what you can to help our little blue dot, too.
Inactive supporters of an idea are just as difficult a challenge for humanity to conquer as active ignorance; two sides of the same coin.
I like to think the issues I write about and think about…
- the future of artificial intelligence;
- global warming, and our disconnection from our responsibility to nature, our first mother;
- autism, and the narrative of disability vs. differability, weakness vs. whole person;
…I inevitably work towards making these issues better. Sometimes, I have to incubate an idea; and if I’m overwhelmed, I may resort to fiction writing to solve it (the more forgiving writing method);
So while my activism may not manifest as a march, as a provocative Twitter comment (although who knows, my Twitter activity is young!)… because I’m scared to sift the mud too much, because then the water becomes cloudy—
That doesn’t mean I don’t stick my hands into the mud.
Teaching Philosophy 💖 Enabling Critical Thinkers
This is why my prerogative as a professor is to teach students how to be deep-thinking members of their community; but it’s up to them to figure out what “community” means, what “audience” means. Liberal, conservative. Democrat, Republican. Family dinner conversations, large social media platforms.
I don’t mean for them to choose sides, so much as understand there are multiple sides in our society, and the key is to tune our ear into deep listening, reading, thinking, observing (so many of them don’t consider all this social media they consume an intellectual observation!), contemplation—wondrous tools all human beings possess, so we can decide how we want to connect and disconnect with our complicated reality.
Disconnect from brute advertising.
Connect to friends.
Disconnect from what you should think.
Connect to what you authentically think.
Disconnect from harming others.
Connect to helping others (whether that’s your self-care, your classmates, your family, your country, Internationally,… we’re all at different stages at different times of our lives, and we’re heavily impacted by what society has taught us.)
I’m sure my students inevitably figure out my political views are decidedly progressive, at least from our side conversations about artificial intelligence (and you’d be surprised how many of them want to talk about the future ahead of them, but it’s not a discourse often engaged in the classrooms they’ve been in before, at least not beyond narratives that don’t make sense to them like the American Dream);
But that’s not the point of instruction, to “turn them into progressives,” and it saddens me when I see the media portraying college that way.
I’m a human professor, so I allow myself my slip-ups in expressing my personal opinions, always catching myself when I do, reminding my students there are multiple ways to see these things, even explaining my understanding of the other sides, turning it into instruction, illuminating why that counterargument they’ve been required to write in classes before is so incredibly important;
And if one of them asks, “What’s a counterargument?” then I give them the joy of writing one in their next essay;
Because these 18-plus-year-olds, they’re on an exciting journey: for the first time (for many of them, anyway) (some grow up young), they get to sift through the multiple ways to see things, and decide what they think.
They look overwhelmed when I tell them this seeking of answers, this understanding who and what we are, who and what society is—it’s an ongoing life process.
It’s also why daily writing can be liberating to our intellectual growth; it’s why I prioritize the nurturing of their wounded Inner Writer Child, for those of them who had “a bad English class experience,” to help them understand again (I’m certain they understood it before) that they have command over what they write now. No one gets to dictate that ever again, unless a paycheck or state requirement is involved.
“Okay, maybe the forceful writing in your life has always involved a paycheck or state requirement,” I relent. And they laugh at this. They embrace the requirements I set on my essay assignments wholeheartedly, knowing I have things I must teach them, but what I really want to teach them is how they can teach themselves.
I tell them all the time, if they don’t like the edits I suggest in their essays, discard them; I’m the more educated writer in that classroom—all these accomplishments I’ve completed say so, or I wouldn’t be hired to teach community college—but I’m still only one of the 20-30 writers in there, and education doesn’t always hit the mark. Education is a tool. Everything is just a tool to interact with our reality better, to figure out what this “life” thing is all about, why we’re so damned hellbent on stuff that’s “fair.”
Enabling intellectual, ongoing, public discourse is the point of English class, at least these days, when that’s a sadly lacking skill. I hope I hit the mark most of the time. I learn from my mistakes when I don’t.
Science Fiction; Fantasy; & the Fermi Paradox
Shifting gears, I want to document a video I studied recently for my science fiction novella. Do watch this with the suspension of disbelief you’d bring to, say, the TV show Fringe; I see videos like this as more of a selective montage of news—an invitation to a discussion, through sources—then as an obvious sign of aliens, Biblical events, etc.
And I like to think the creator of the video appreciates if the montage is digested as story ideas; storytelling is a powerful tool, after all—approaching ideas creatively.
I watch these kinds of far-fetched videos a lot for my science fiction research… i.e., my fiction writing research… Fringe ideas like this make for good storytelling, as well as provocative conversation, as long as you keep your wits and creativity about you, add layers to make the story yours, angle it in a way that makes a larger commentary about our society.
The video below is a book idea, too: urban fantasy this time, more than science fiction.
That part of the Internet… Isn’t critical and creative thinking important for navigating fringe ideas from “that part of the Internet?”
Big plans for books. Goodness, while I would never show these videos in classrooms, it cracks some of my students up when I mention, “I waded through the Internet last weekend,” during those 5 minutes of casual conversations I have with them before class starts, the humanizing aspect of our classroom community.
This next video, I did show in class—to demonstrate it’s possible to create a divided, fun, ethos-logos-pathos space for critical and creative conversation, without politics getting involved, without feeling like we’re about to enter a Thanksgiving dinner train wreck:
We do the train wreck for a different paper.